Friday, April 15, 2016

Seared Duck Breast with Strawberry Balsamic Reduction

I'm off to take an exam this morning - trying to be ambitious and further my career and all that jazz - so wish me luck. And I thought I would share this amazing dinner in that it'll give me some extra good vibes.

This was actually our Easter dinner. I was feeling uninspired at the market; the roasts and lamb just didn't look that appealing. Then, I spotted duck breasts and thought I'd make a French-inspired meal. It turned out pretty delicious and it made me miss Lyon and Nice.
Ingredients [serves 2 to 4]:
seared duck breast
2 duck breasts
3 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper

strawberry balsamic reduction
½ pink strawberries
2 teaspoons honey
1½ tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1½ tablespoons white rum
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon olive oil

Let's start with the strawberry balsamic reduction, since it can be made ahead of time. Basically, just add all of the ingredients to a saucepan and place over a medium low heat. Once the berries start to break down, help them out with a masher and then cook for an additional ten minutes or until it looks thick and starts to resemble jam.
Send the sauce through a fine-mesh sieve to get rid of the seeds and pulp. Stir in a little olive oil for richness and body, and that's the sauce, done.
For the duck, you want to get some nice sized breasts (about a half pound each) and you want them with the skin on. The skin is the best part.
Dry the meat off with a paper towel and then score the skin (with a crosshatch). Be careful not to cut into the flesh.
Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper and then lay the breasts, skin side down, onto a cold pan. Turn the heat up to medium high. Starting the meat in a cold pan will help render out the fat. If you add the meat to a hot pan, it will sear the skin and seal in the fat and you won't achieve that amazing crispy skin. It's the same thing with bacon, pancetta, salt pork; basically anything that's fatty, you'll want to start in a cold pan to render out the fat.
Cook on the skin side for about 10 minutes until golden and crisped through. Drain off the duck fat every now and again to achieve maximum crispiness. I used a turkey baster for convenience and for safety, as the fat is incredibly hot and will burn you.
Save the fat for cooking potatoes or eggs or anything you want to impart delicious, unctuous flavor to.
Flip the breasts and cook on the second side for about two minutes, just to get a sear, and the meat will be rare. For more of a medium doneness, finish them off in the oven for about five minutes. The cooking time will also depend on the thickness of the meat, but since most duck breasts are similar in size, the timing I described is a pretty decent rule of thumb.
Leave the meat to rest for about ten minutes before cutting into it.
To accompany the meal, I made a few other elements. For dessert, I made lemon madeleines.
For the vegetable of the meal, I made my favorite frisee salad (which was inspired by a trip to Lyon).
And I made accordion potatoes in the oven but instead of my usual bacon, I went for garlic, rosemary, and lemon because I thought it was a bit more sophisticated and plus I thought the flavors would complement the rest of the meal better.
Slice the duck before serving - for presentation and convenience - and drizzle with some of the strawberry balsamic reduction.
Honestly, because the duck is so rich, you could potentially divide this out to four people if you also serve an appetizer.
If you're celebrating, and even if you aren't celebrating anything in particular, enjoy the meal with some bubbles. I think a fruity, sweet white wine complements the duck nicely. Especially because it's so rich, it's nice to have the acidity to cut through.
The duck is really good and couldn't be much simpler. The skin is crisp, the meat is incredibly tender, and the flavors are really lovely. I mean, this beats chicken any day. And of course, I loved having it with the fragrant potatoes and the bright salad. It was a delicious meal and something I want to make again; maybe this weekend.
Oh, by the way, I popped the madeleines into the oven midway through the meal and they were piping hot and ready to eat as soon as we were done. It was perfect timing.
Here's the recipe page:

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